GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — As a projected blizzard approaches West Michigan, ambulance crews are getting ready to respond to emergencies and save lives while the roads are treacherous.

News 8 spoke with Mark Meijer, the founder and president of Life EMS Ambulance, about how they’re adjusting their plans ahead of the storm. Meijer said employees are working extra shifts on Friday and Saturday to fill the additional need.

“Every transport we do now is going to take more time,” Meijer explained. “When we have more time on tasks, the routine number of ambulances aren’t enough.”

“If a typical transport of a patient takes an hour, it’s now going to take maybe two hours,” Meijer added. “Or an hour and 45 minutes. We have to build that into our deployment as well as we strategically place ambulances throughout West Michigan.”

Ambulance crews may take different routes than normal to get to emergencies.

“Our computer dispatch system we use allows us to program in dynamic street closures,” Meijer elaborated. “If US-131 southbound between Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo gets drifted over very quickly … what’s our alternative routes, because they may close. We will figure that into our responses. Maybe the ambulance is going to come from one of our normal operations and not from where it normally would.”

“Instead of us going down a two-track and getting stuck, we try and make sure we can get access through a different means so we don’t put ourselves out of commission,” Meijer added.

But even if the emergency is on a snow-covered road, Meijer said they can make it work with a helping hand.

“We’ve got a lot of great fire department partners,” Meijer said. “For example, some of the rural areas literally have special equipment including snowmobiles and ATVs and stuff where they can help us gain access to the patients.”

When it does take longer for crews to arrive, Meijer said people can call Life EMS’s medically trained dispatchers to start treatment over the phone.

“We’ll stay on the phone as long as it takes,” Meijer said. “Not only giving pre-arrival instructions to the patient or the family of what to do until the local fire department or one of our life ambulances get there, but also reassuring them that we’re on the way.”

If you see an ambulance on scene, Meijer said to drive slowly and give them a lot of space.

“No sudden moves,” he said. “Please, if you see an emergency vehicle, just slow down. Easily move to the right if you can. Be careful of not catching in a snowbank and causing yourself to spin out. Take a deep breath, drive slowly and let that vehicle past.”

Additionally, Meijer asked drivers to not “hurry around” emergency vehicles.

“Because during this kind of weather, your car you can lose control immediately,” Meijer said. “Now you’re part of the accident scene where our medics may be out helping people, and they can get seriously injured.”

Meijer said he has tremendous confidence in the emergency responders, and they’re used to this kind of challenge.

“The message is there’s hundreds of first responders in West Michigan here to help you and take care of you,” Meijer said.